I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore movie review: Darkly entertaining look at messed-up America
When someone screws with you, what do you do? Depending on the kind of person you are, you would generally do one of these two things – either immediately proceed to take some action, or shrug if off and let it go. If you exist in a comic book universe you have a third option of knitting a cape, wearing it and heading off into the night to avenge yourself.
If you haven’t guessed it already, in a film titled I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, the protagonist may have a different kind of reaction to being screwed over. She neither wants to be an ass-kicking Avenger-style vigilante, nor a meek pushover — she just wants to know why people can be such assholes.
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is the kind of film that makes you wish Hollywood made more of. Written and directed by first timer Macon Blair, the film mixes the awkwardly nihilist pitch dark comedy of the Coen Brothers and the heavily atmospheric, bleak thrills of Jeremy Saulnier’s work. The story follows Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) an oddball nursing assistant who returns home one day to find the place burgled. And when she goes to the police station the cop in charge turns out to be of no help. Since she’s clearly not a superheroine, she does the only thing she can think of — asking her neighbours for help — and chances upon Tony (Elijah Wood), a strange heavy-metal blasting specimen of a human being who is shocked that someone would mess with his neighbour.
The film kicks into high gear once Ruth and Tony’s journey kicks in, as they rove around the seedy mid western area, prowling around dangerous locations to find Ruth’s stolen belongings. Writer-director Blair cleverly subverts the ‘superhero’ tropes at every turn — instead of kung fu slam bangs, Ruth’s meetings with potential suspects turn into hilarious situations, with a ticking time bomb, making you wonder when the tomfoolery would stop and violence is going to erupt. The violence, even when it does arrive, is either a result of hysterical human stupidity or causation to something even more absurd than what just transpired.
Blair’s handling of the film’s tone is fascinating because the transitions from serious threats to complete buffoonery and back are seamless. It seems like he’s learned much from Saulnier, whom he has worked with in Murder Party, Blue Ruin and Green Room — in fact this film feels like a fourth installment to those movies, existing in the same universe of violently creepy red necks and dark woods hiding unspeakable secrets. It’s an uglier side of America you don’t generally see in movies, and every layer that Blair peels away reveals a darker cavity of the land. And with the white supremacist undertones in the news lately, and an increasingly tribalised thought process coming to the forefront, this story also serves as a wake up call to those who think America begins at the Golden Gate bridge and ends at Central Park.
Ruth’s docilely angelic character stuck in this heroin riddled white man’s hell, therefore, is interesting — filled with good natured naiveté and charming outrage at the fact that people can be dicks. She is unable to understand how people can be so ruthless, and why a human being cannot make the effort to give a shit about someone in trouble. Wood’s character is fun commentary because he’s the quintessential ‘weirdo’ in the neighbourhood looked down upon for his odd behaviour and appearance, yet is the only one in the whole film who looks out for Ruth. Woods could have gone full mainstream after the Lord of the Rings movies, but it’s interesting that he chose to appear in and produce these kind of indie films.
Without giving away the details, there is a ‘main villain’ in the film, but he only serves as a placeholder for a much larger point that Blair is making — that the top one percent are not ruining America — they’ve already done so decades ago and what we’re feeling now are persistent waves of the consequences. You won’t be faulted for feeling hopeless, but if you’re willing to chuckle a little bit, you could find this huge mess kind of darkly entertaining.
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore deservedly won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year, and is currently streaming on Netflix.